After a lead-footed loss at South Florida, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III openly questioned his team's effort. With their second-leading scorer missing from an already short rotation, the Hoyas might not win many games in conference, and certainly couldn't afford to be outworked by their opponents.
What a difference two weeks make. Today, for the fourth straight game, Georgetown proved that loss an aberration, defying the cynicism and fueling the delusion with a 68-56 home win to complete a sweep over St. John's.
Entering Saturday, Georgetown increasingly had been a two-headed monster offensively, with Otto Porter and to a lesser extent Markel Starks shouldering the offensive burden. Against the Red Storm, that responsibility was spread more evenly, as four Hoya starters scored in double figures and The Beleaguered Mikael Hopkins notched eight.
First among equals against St. John's was Nate Lubick, who tallied a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, setting and matching career highs, respectively. Lubick played his best game as a Hoya, outworking his counterparts on the boards, scoring opportunistically, finding open teammates with four assists, clogging the lane on defense, and generally being the coach's son. The junior forward has enjoyed a productive, under-the-radar season, operating as a hub of the increasingly effective Hoya offense, and contributing nearly everywhere else on the court.
Unlike in the first match-up, when the Hoyas blitzed the Red Storm from the opening tip, St. John's came out firing Saturday. In particular, lightly-regarded Phil Greene hit several early jumpers to give the Johnnies an early lead. But that advantage never stretched beyond four, and soon vanished.
The catalyst for the Hoyas' surge, as it has been so many times this year, was Porter. The sophomore hit a triple to tie the game, stuck a put-back jumper off an offensive rebound, then canned a runner to put the Hoyas' up four. Another Hoya basket followed by a triple by D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera made the Georgetown run 12 straight, and the lead 9.
St. John's narrowed the lead to five, but then Lubick went to work. First, Jabril Trawick fed the junior big man for a lay-in, then Lubick made his own offense, grabbing a Hoya miss and putting it back in. A Markel Starks three extended the lead to 12, and, after a St. John's basket, Aaron Bowen nearly brought the house down with a put-back dunk to keep the margin at a dozen.
The game remained comfortably in that zone, as the Hoyas' lead stayed between 8 and 15 points the rest of the way. Every time things got a little too close, the Hoyas would respond with a basket--a triple from Starks or Porter, or a put-back from Lubick--to push the margin back to double digits.
As it did in its win at St. John's three weeks ago, Georgetown beat St. John's today with its effort. Generally a weak offensive rebounding team this year, the Hoyas grabbed nearly half their own misses Saturday. And Georgetown overcame a weak outside shooting night primarily thanks to a dominant night in the paint, where the Hoyas scored 32 points. Fittingly, Lubick led the team in both categories, grabbing four offensive rebounds and scoring all but one of his eight baskets in the lane. But he wasn't alone: Porter grabbed 7 rebounds and DSR hauled in 8, while Trawick had a typically gritty 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
Also like last time, Georgetown bottled up the Red Storm offense, holding the Johnnies to 32 percent from the field, including just 4 of 18 from three. Despite missing their defensive ace Greg Whittington, the Hoyas have become an increasingly elite defensive squad, holding their last four opponents to under 52 points per game. While Jakarr Sampson put in a solid 18 points in the mid-range and near the basket, Georgetown stifled the St. John's guards. Red Storm star D'Angelo Harrison missed all nine of his shots, while Greene, despite his opening flurry, made just 5 of 16 shots from the field.
Georgetown's frenetic effort, combined with the Red Storm's distaste for being blown out three weeks ago, make things a bit chippy late, and a rumored dust-up after the final whistle. But the Hoyas escaped the game unscathed, and completed a perfect three-game home-stand which elevated them into a logjam at third place in the conference.
The Hoyas now have a week until next Saturday's trip to Rutgers, which in all likelihood will be Georgetown's most winnable road game remaining. Each passing victory seems to underscore, rather than alleviate, the necessity of winning the next one. After today's win, the next win also seems more probable. But for now, Hoya Saxa.